The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos played an instant classic Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. But could it have been much better?
“It’s unfortunate because the only way you can beat the Patriots is if you take four of their top offensive players off the field, the officials have their hand in the game, and then you have to have some momentum switch because (Chris Harper) muffs a punt,” Esiason said Monday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich,” according to CBS Boston Sports. “The officials were calling penalties all over the place — some legit, some not so legit. I feel like the officials (Sunday) really let the game get out of control.
“It seemed liked the entire fourth quarter there was a yellow flag on the field. And when it was thrown, it was against the Patriots. The whole thing was spiraling out of control.”
Two calls in the fourth quarter really stood out.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference with 5:22 remaining, negating a 10-yard gain and a first down. New England punted one play later.
And safety Patrick Chung was called for defensive holding, negating a critical sack that would have forced the Broncos into a third-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Denver scored a go-ahead touchdown moments later.
“I don’t know if (those flags are) unfair, but that call (against Gronkowski) was ticky tack, as was the call against Chung,” Esiason said. “You could call these on every single pass play where there’s two players next to each other. You can’t cover a guy in the NFL anymore.
“I don’t want to sit here and cry about the officiating or sound like I’m doing that, but when the game is on the line, you have to let them play. You just have to let them play.”
The officials certainly didn’t “let them play” Sunday night.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via NFL analyst Boomer Esiason